Using survey data gathered from 42 universities for the period 1998–2001, we provide data on enrollment trends, the input quality of students, and the relation between student input quality and several other variables for master's in accounting programs. In addition, we analyze program designs and content, and profile the curricula of several programs. This study is motivated by concerns about accounting education cited in the Albrecht and Sack (2000) monograph and by a paucity of evidence pertaining to graduate accounting programs.
The enrollment data show that the number of graduate students in accounting has increased in recent years, for both existing programs and for new programs added in response to the 150‐hour requirement. However, the average enrollment level of these programs is not large, especially in comparison to M.B.A. programs. The input quality of students is assessed based on GMAT score data. For a sample of 11,255 students over the four‐year period 1998–2001, the average GMAT score for students in graduate accounting programs is 586, significantly lower than for students enrolled in highly ranked M.B.A. programs. In addition, average GMAT scores of graduate accounting programs are highly correlated with program rankings and at least one (then) Big 5 firm's hiring ratio. Our analysis of program design and curriculum indicates a great deal of commonality across programs. Most programs, including programs with modest enrollment levels, offer three or four specialty tracks. Most programs require a large number of accounting courses, and there is substantial commonality among the sets of courses. In contrast, the nonaccounting business coursework is not well developed in most programs. Also, while there is an emphasis on course content, we do see evidence of a focus on functional, personal, and broad business competencies as suggested by the AICPA Core Competency Project. As evidence of curriculum innovation, we discuss several examples of specialized or “focused” programs.
We conclude by discussing the implications of the results for accounting education and professional practice.